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Reutimann continues rapid rise in trucks

BRANT JAMES
Published March 14, 2004

HAMPTON, Ga. - Not bad, rookie.

Zephyrhills native David Reutimann continued his rapid rise in the NASCAR Truck series on Saturday, producing a meticulous third-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In just his second race in the series, Reutimann started on the pole and led eight laps, but settled into third and watched Bobby Hamilton come from a lap down to edge former champion Mike Skinner at the finish.

Hamilton passed Skinner on the high line in his No. 4 Dodge, then tapped Skinner, sending his No. 42 across the finish line sideways and denying Toyota its first win in the series. Counting Reutimann in the No. 17 and Travis Kvapil in the No. 24, Toyota claimed three of the top four spots.

"I had the best seat in the house for that one," Reutimann said. "I've haven't raced against them much but I've seen enough of them on TV to know neither one of them was going to give an inch.

"I was looking out my window but it looked like Skinner's tailgate beat me across the line."

Reutimann, who said he would celebrate by flying to his current home of Troutman, N.C., and hugging 2-year-old daughter Emilia, will enter the third race of the season on April17 at Martinsville, Va., fourth in driver points. He is 27 behind leader Kvapil and the top rookie by 95 points.

The race was red-flagged for more than five minutes when Tina Gordon lost control of the No. 13 Chevrolet coming off a turn and was hit in succession by Rick Crawford and Hank Parker. All were taken to an Atlanta hospital, Parker by helicopter. Gordon fractured her fibula. Crawford had a fractured left foot and was released. Parker has a back injury and was held overnight. Joey Clanton, involved in a later accident, had a CT scan that revealed no brain injury.

PRACTICE: Dave Blaney recorded the fastest lap in the final Nextel Cup practice before today's Golden Corral 500. Blaney ran at 187.595 mph around the 1.54-mile tri-oval. While most regular drivers turned no more than three laps, Michael Waltrip stayed out for 23.

Tony Stewart was fastest in the morning at 187.773. The session was cut a few minutes short when Brian Vickers' No. 25 Chevrolet had a drive shaft problem and began spitting fluid on the track. An engine change was not required, so he will maintain the No. 2 starting position. The shaft damaged the grill of Kyle Petty's No. 45 Dodge but his team deemed the damage cosmetic.

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: NASCAR officials on Saturday told Naples-based Arnold Motorsports that it would have to remove the logos of its primary sponsor, Redneckjunk.com, from Derrike Cope's No. 50 Dodge.

NASCAR said through spokesperson Herb Branham: "We just didn't feel like that projected the proper image of our sport."

Redneckjunk.com sells used sporting goods and auto parts.

NASCAR has become increasingly image-conscious as it attempts to broaden its demographic reach beyond the Southeast. Three cars will start today's Nextel Cup race sponsored by beer companies, however, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 8 Chevrolet, which also bears advertising from a firearms company. Joe Ruttman's No. 09 Dodge is sponsored by a casino.

PUBLISHED REPORTS: NASCAR competitors got more exposure than usual last week in national publications. In an interview with men's magazine FHM, driver Kevin Harvick referred to Kurt Busch as looking "like an Opie kind of pansy" and the type of person that would get picked on in high school. He conceded Busch is "a great driver." Harvick has often referred to his fellow "Young Gun" as "Rubberhead," a mocking reference to Busch's sponsor, Newell Rubbermaid. ... Richard Petty wrote an essay on stock car racing for this week's Sports Illustrated.

LAPS: Ken Schrader is scheduled to make his 600th career start. He is the 16th driver to reach that total. ... Dawsonville, Ga., native Bill Elliott, a six-time winner at Atlanta, will miss a race here for the first time since the spring of 1976. He'll be in the broadcast booth as an analyst for Performance Radio Network.

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